Maternal ambivalence and hostility, which are not always conscious – are often played out through physical or emotional abuse, and also through neglect. Other mothers can't be there for their child due to social circumstances or ill health, and the effects are similar to that of neglect.
In extreme circumstances a mother’s negativity or absence will threaten the life of her child. 'The Death Mother' symbolises this situation.
Western culture, which has idealised motherhood, shames mothers who feel and behave in these ways, and judges them to be mentally ill, unnatural or beyond the pale of humanity. In this film, I challenge such judgements by presenting insights from (1) anthropological studies of different cultures, and (2) research into the evolutionary history of our species.
My aim is to forge a more nuanced, layered and compassionate understanding of maternal hostility and ambivalence. My hope is that such an understanding will contribute to healing shame and opening the door to change in two groups of people: first, mothers who feel negatively towards their children, and second, those who have been traumatised by growing up in the shadow of such a mother.
Dr. Daniela F. Sieff is both an evolutionary anthropologist and a researcher of emotional trauma and its healing. She is the author of the book, 'Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma'. For more information see https://www.danielasieff.com/
This film has been uploaded in two configurations: (1) this configuration in which the entire talk is presented as a single film, and (2) a configuration in which the talk is split up into four shorter films.